De Wildt Cheetah Project

To conserve cheetahs in South Africa by means of breeding, research and environmental education

 

The cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus, is Africa’s most endangered big cat. Cheetah populations are dramatically declining. The species is now threatened with extinction due to loss of habitat and prey, a diminishing gene pool and human persecution.

 

Botswana contains one of the largest remaining populations of free ranging cheetahs in the world. In 1998 it was estimated at 1768 individuals (Funston et al 2000), this represents 12% of the world population. Identifying Botswana as one of the last strongholds of the species. However, populations are not safe within protected areas as they are outcompeted by stronger predators. The cheetahs then move out onto marginal land where they come into conflict with rural communities. Neither protected reserves or captive management can be relied upon to support viable populations of the species. ( Marker et al 1996). Long term survival is dependent on conservation management of agricultural zones. (Winterbach 2001, National Predator Strategy).

 

Despite being listed as a species threatened with extinction under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and vulnerable by the IUCN, no formalised studies have ever been done and little is known about the status of the cheetah in Botswana. CCB was set up in 2003 to address the need for a conservation program focused on this endangered cat. The project works to ensure the survival of the cheetah through scientific research, rural community education and participation, and promotion of alternative, non-lethal predator control methods and appropriate livestock management.

 

Cheetahs, a vulnerable and legally protected species, were causing problems to ranchers in the Limpopo and North West Provinces of South Africa. These ranchers approached the De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Trust for assistance in this problem, which led, in 2001, to the establishment of the De Wildt Cheetah Project.

 

This project aims at ensuring the long term survival of the wild cheetah and its ecosystems through the implementation of a National Management Plan by means of integrated conservation programs, research and education, and has the following objectives:

 

  • To conduct long term conservation research and education programs relating to the wild cheetah with the aim of ensuring its long term survival.
  • To develop predator management plans, which are beneficial to both the cheetah and the farmer.
  • To promote livestock management techniques, which incorporate non-lethal predator control methods.
  • To create and maintain a network of concerned individuals and interested parties that have an interest in cheetah conservation.
  • To investigate cheetah/farmer conflict issues and to implement solutions which are beneficial to all parties.
  • To act as implementing organisation for strategies developed by the NCCF or National Conservation Bodies.

 

The Programme focuses on conservation efforts relating to free roaming cheetah, which occur on commercial and communal farmlands in South Africa. It involves a great deal of conflict resolution with farmers (commercial and communal) who suffer financial losses to the farming activities due to predation caused by cheetahs. Research carried out in the context of the programme focuses on the understanding of cheetahs which occur on farmland areas. The project conducts surveys on cheetahs on ranchland areas and is currently busy with a National Cheetah Census, using various censussing methods. The project also relocates cheetahs that are seen to be problem animals on farmlands to various Private and State Owner Nature Reserves and National Parks in South Africa. This relocated cheetah population is managed as a meta-population in order to ensure genetic integrity.

 

WAZA Conservation Project 06024 is implemented by the De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Trust and supported by the Australia Zoo, Scoville Zoo, Miami Metro Zoo, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Toronto Zoo, Cheetah Outreach, Cango Wildlife Ranch, and PAAZAB, as well as by SAPPI, SASOL/CHEVRON, The Mazda Wildlife Fund, KBR, Cheetah Conservation Foundation, Tier One Electronics, Schenker, PHASA, Buffalo Ranch, African Wildlife Tracking, Monate Game Lodge and several private persons.

 

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